In the past year there has been what appears to be a constant drumbeat, seemingly almost weekly and sometimes daily, of reports of mass shootings and deaths by firearms throughout the United States. There are also statistics. A recent study reported by the BBC indicates there has been a steady increase by year in the number of gun deaths in the U.S. between 2014 and 2021 with the exception of a small dip in 2020. Reliable published statistics for 2022 have been difficult to locate due to the fact that 2022 is the current year but according to the Gun Violence Archive there have been 225 mass shootings, 14 mass murders, and 19,350 total number of gun violence deaths (all causes) that have occurred as of June 11, 2022.
While there has long been an ebb and flow of general concerns regarding gun violence and mass shootings in America, the high level of recent reporting mentioned earlier raises the question: Has gun violence and particularly mass shootings in the United States increased to the point where it can now be reasonably asserted that this issue has now become a crisis in America?
The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings as “multiple firearm homicide incidents involving four or more victims at one or more locations close to one another”. The FBI definition is essentially the same but in the United States there are several different, but common, other definitions of mass shootings. For a more extended discussion see Richard Berk’s analysis of this topic, What is Mass Shooting? What Can Be Done?, on the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology website.
Gun Control and mass shootings are highly complex, diverse, and volatile topics that are impossible to cover in depth in a single posting. To help those wishing to pursue these topics more comprehensively I have selected the following websites from a wide array of sources:
Wolchover, Natalie. WHY GUN CONTROL IS SO CONTENTIOUS IN THE U.S.. Scientific American. July 23, 2012.
Schaeffer, Katherine. KEY FACTS ABOUT AMERICANS AND GUNS. Pew Research. September.2021.
Brownstein, Ronald. THE REAL REASON AMERICA DOESN’T HAVE GUN CONTROL. Atlantic. May 28,2022.
French, David. AGAINST GUN IDOLATRY. Dispatch Magazine, June 5, 2022
Riga, Kate. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR GUNS TO ONE DAY GO THE WAY OF CIGARETTES? TPM. June 8,2022.
Crocker, Thomas. DON’T FORGET THE FIRST HALF OF THE SECOND AMENDMENT. Atlantic. June 8, 2022.
GUN POLICY IN AMERICA. Rand Gun Policy in America Initative. Latest Update. May 2022
GUN VIOLENCE ARCHIVE. Washington, D.C. 2022.
Brady, Jim and Sarah. KEY STATISTICS: GUN VIOLENCE BY THE NUMBERS.
On June 12 I received what appears to be good news! A bipartisan group of senators who have been working for some time to prepare draft legislation related to gun violence and mass shootings in America that would be acceptable to both houses and the president had just announced they have reached final agreement among themselves on a framework for enacting modest gun restrictions. As reported in several news outlets including the Guardian the accord covers several items such as closing loopholes, increasing background checks for purchases by people between the ages of 18 and 21, and bolstering efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs, but excludes tougher steps wanted by many gun reform advocates such as including a ban on what are termed assault weapons. More work needs to be done. Even so, if enacted into law this legislation will be the most significant piece of gun legislation to make it through congress in over 20 years.
It is encouraging to hear that at least ten republican senators may have already agreed to sign off on the final accord and that President Biden plans to sign the final legislation after it passes both houses. Regardless of the final outcome, the bipartisan commission of senators led by senators Murphy and Cornyn are to be commended for their efforts to confront issues and help avert a crisis related to the high level of gun violence and mass shootings in America today.